I’m convinced that people were drawn to Jesus mostly because they experienced him to be a man of integrity. People are drawn to people of integrity. So, I have a story to tell about integrity – not perfection mind you – but integrity none-the-less.
Kelly is 34-years-old and has been an addict since he was 14. Four years ago he walked into my life in the height of his addiction. In four years, he has gone from being mostly high, to being occasionally high, to rarely high. We hope this current round – which is about seven months in the making – will be when we say he finally got and stayed sober.
Kelly had all the issues that addicts have…little self-discipline…medicated his feelings all through his addiction…no capacity to manage his feelings. The results: a string of relationships with girls and work and friends that couldn’t be sustained. As Kelly came to be a part of the Harbor Church community, all of this began to change – slowly at first but with increasing consistency.
Then a crisis came. Kelly got fired from his job of almost two years as a roofing salesman – for good cause. We all held our breath because this was exactly the kind of thing that could send him into another cycle of drug use. This time, though, he didn’t cave in. He told the truth. He accepted the feedback from his excellent boss and acknowledged its veracity. He shared the feedback with key people in his life – and he began looking for another job.
About 10 days into the job search, Kelly was offered a new job – with a roofing company – in Florida. The Sunshine State has been pummeled with hurricanes this season, and that’s bad for Florida, but it presents enormous opportunities for a roofing salesman. The amounts of money a person in this profession can make in those circumstances is almost beyond belief. Kelly was mesmerized by all the possibilities.
Up to this point, this is just a story about a hard luck story that might have a happy ending. But, Kelly did something that I believe very few people actually doing. He slowed down and asked the question, “How do I live out my values as I respond to this opportunity?”
As a part of the Harbor Church core, Kelly has committed his life to three values that we think capture the life and teaching of Jesus. They are: counter-cultural living; living in community; and being on a shared mission. If you want more explanation of those values you can go to http://www.harborchurch.com/. Here is part of one conversation that Kelly and I had as he asked and answered the question, “How do I apply my values to this opportunity?
Kelly: “This is a huge opportunity. I’ve been wondering how to step into this so that I get the benefit of the income and our mission of helping people in recovery also benefits?”
Me: “That’s a good question. Any ideas?”
Kelly: “Well, I was wondering if the pastors would commission me for a resource-gathering-mission?”
Me: “Not sure what that is?”
Kelly: “What if I entered into an agreement with Harbor where ya’ll sent me out as your missionary. My job is to make a lot of money and give it to help Harbor do its mission.”
Me: “How would that work?”
Kelly: “Not sure. Let me think about that some more.”
Eventually Kelly proposed a covenant with the church that reflected all three of our values – and his.
First, he asked to have his check electronically deposited into the Harbor Church account. Having a pocket full of money is a trigger for his addiction. This kind of accountability is both counter-cultural and a significant part of what it means to live in community.
Second, he offered to give 45% of all his earnings to Harbor. The first 10% simply as a tithe….the remaining 35% to a designated account to begin building cash for a down payment on the purchase of an apartment complex to house our recovery ministry. This has been a dream we’ve talked about for more than a year, but we have few assets so it remained just that – a dream.
Third, he asked that we hold 30% for him to use to start a business when he returns in one year.
Fourth, he asked that 10% of what he was keeping for himself be given to his mother to help with her retirement – an impending event for which she has not been adequately prepared.
Then he would live on the remainder in Florida.
Kelly could have – had every right to – take the job, move to Florida, and if things worked out – get rich. But, he did not exercise those rights. He has lived in the Harbor community for four years. We’ve attempted to teach, model, and call people to these values. But, no one went to Kelly and asked for any of this. What makes it so powerful is that he willingly chose it.
This kind of giving – this kind of living – is extraordinary – even for people with lots of money. Kelly is – by American standards a poor person…no assets…no retirement…no insurance. That he would give like this is amazing. That he would give to provide something very specific that accelerates the achievement of our mission is exciting. That he could fail is beside the point. Kelly has faced a major opportunity and has done so by asking the question, “What do I value?”
This story connects to my story in a larger way. I’m not only the Senior Pastor of Harbor Church, I am one of those who believes the Church in American culture is in trouble – big trouble. Recently George Barna (the George Gallup of the Christian world) reported that a person is as likely to get a divorce if they don’t have any faith at all as they are if they belong to a Christian congregation (http://www.barna.org/). The world has quit coming to the church – both figuratively and literally – because they look at us and they see that we are just as materialistic, just as independent, just as judgmental, just as likely to lie and cheat, and just as selfl-absorbed– as they are. In short, they recognize that we don’t live the values that we claim to embrace as followers of Jesus.
I’m deeply encouraged by Kelly. He reminds me that Jesus still captures people’s hearts and imaginations. He makes me want to think deeply about what the use of my time, my influence, and my money communicates about what I really believe.